Originally published Velocity Magazine, January-February 2008
Personal Health as an Environmental Practice
Perhaps the most effective ways to help the planet are to evaluate our personal lifestyle and how we can bring it into alignment with the harmony of our planet. This requires us not just to think and evaluate, but to use those to inform our action!
This issue, let’s discuss some simple and yet highly effective personal actions each of us can take to lighten our footprint on the planet in three of the most intimate and important areas of our survival – health, water, and food.
My teachers and ancestors have always taught me that my health and healing is inextricably linked to the health of my environment. Thus, I also seek ways to heal myself and my family that are in harmony with nature.
Modern Western medicine, historically and globally speaking, is a very young minority. Having blossomed within the last century, it is only utilized by 15% of the world’s population. While many tools and techniques of the modern medical system offer us great gifts, many others are abused or used at times when natural methods can provide similar relief. When we take pharmaceutical drugs, we become involved in an ecological cycle that involves all of the pollution produced in the factories that prepare the drugs. In the process of healing ourselves, we contribute to the pollution of air and waterways, the destruction of habitats, and the death of animals in labs and in nature.
Plant and energy based healing offers us an alternative. You can sip a cup of herbal tea, or experience reiki, and never wonder if the life of a mouse has been sacrificed for your personal healing. You can rest confidently that your healthcare does not contribute to further environmental pollution or destruction. In fact – by using plants for healing, you are coming even closer to your environment, to all cycles of life.
This said, not all plant-based healing is equal. When a corporation enters indigenous lands and strips them of their native plants to package into little plastic bottles, we still feed into the cycle of environmental and cultural destruction. So, practice Herbalism with mindfulness, research, and active engagement. Don’t just buy the latest fad rainforest herb advertised on TV – learn what healing plant might grow in your own backyard, safe from threat of extinction.
I encourage you to explore the art and science of plant based healing, not only as a way to bring your body into wellness and balance, but to restore your connection to nature and to contribute to the restoration of the environment.
“Refill, not Landfill” – The Myth of Bottled Water
One of the school’s campaigns, “Refill, not Landfill” encourages us to ditch the bottled water fad and start using refillable containers for our drinking water.
The economic costs of bottled water are an important place to start our evaluation. Bottled water can cost hundreds or thousands of times more than tap water. For most of us, tap water costs about 1/5 of a penny per gallon; using a filtration device or alkalizer, it may cost 10-25 cents per gallon. Bottled water typically costs more than one dollar for eight or twelve ounces – a cost of over $10 per gallon. Consider that most “purified” water simply has chlorine and minerals added – and most “spring” water comes from a tap that is fed by a spring – not from a spring source itself.
Environmentally speaking, in the United States along, plastic bottle production has reached 28.6 billion per year, and requires almost 18 million barrels of oil – enough to fuel more than one million cars. Bottling of water across the globe uses almost 3 million tons of plastic each year. Over 85% of empty plastic water bottles – almost 2 million tons – go to the landfill, instead of being recycled. Most of these will be incinerated, releasing toxic gases and ash full of heavy metals. Ditching the bottle and refilling instead keeps our plastic refuse from clogging up landfills and further polluting our airways.
But perhaps, most important of all, is the quality of the water you are paying those high prices for. The FDA and EPA do not regulate bottled water the same as tap water. Residential water systems must be tested 300 to 500 times per month – bottled water, just once a week. In an independent study of over 100 bottled water brands, 25% contained bacterial or chemical contamination that violated state standards. The same study found that 20% of these brands exceeded state microbial guidelines. Imagine – our tap water is more closely regulated than the water we’ve relied on for decades for “purity.”
You Are What You Eat
A 2005 study suggests that corporate agriculture in the United States is in the top three polluting industries of our natural waterways. Between chemical pesticides and petroleum-based fertilizers, we see the complete destruction of waterways
We see this in Central Florida at Lake Apopka. Alligators are roaming about with two sets of sex organs. Some animal species are born with no sex organs at all. Corporate agribusiness is also to blame for the current crisis of our topsoil, both in this country, and around the world. Without fertile soil, how can the next generation grow their food?
Every time we eat food from a corporate agribusiness, we contribute to the cycle of pollution and environmental destruction. Fortunately, Central Florida is blossoming with new farmers and cooperatives – so it’s easy to take a small personal step towards making a big difference. Take advantage of the abundance that Florida’s long growing season has to offer – and note that you aren’t just supporting good environmental practices, but also keeping more money in the local economy, to help insulate our community from global economic volatility. Or, consider growing your own food. Now’s a great time to plant Spring veggies in your own backyard garden. Soon you’ll be harvesting environmental benefits, and some pretty tasty rewards!